Wednesday, December 31, 2014


The first washes of a watercolor are likely to be covered by succeeding washes.  So why include them in the first place?

Because watercolor is transparent, the first washes can influence the second or even third wash.  The first wash may also determine the temperature of the finished painting.  Will the painting be primarily warm or cool?  The first wash may provide the relief from the final temperature.  A warm undertone may be the contrast for the cool dominant hues. 

In this painting of a Roman piazza, I wanted a warm hue to dominate the painting.  I flooded the middle part of the paper with yellow ochre.  Then quickly I extended the first wash with cooler, more neutral hues.  After all was dry, I placed darker, but same temperature colors on top.  If you glaze a cool over a warm or a warm over a cool, you will probably wind up with "mud". 

Finally, be bold with the underpainting.  If it is too diluted, it can't do its job.  The white of the paper can fool you into thinking you've gone too dark, but the second wash will prove that wrong.

Happy glazing!

Monday, December 29, 2014


In my previous post I showed you the value sketch for the painting of St. Mark's Plaza in Venice.  I painted it this morning and it was just yucky!  There wasn't enough going on.  There weren't enough interruptions in the straight line of the bottom of the building, and my brush strokes got too careful and slow.  What to do, what to do?

I remembered all the little cafes around the plaza, and of course, the crowded square.  I decided that some umbrellas would echo the domes and by placing them where I did they also repeated the oblique line of the shadow coming from the bell tower.  I kept the sky quiet, and the large shadow area is also without texture.  That way the "action" stays in the focal area of the buildings and with the people sitting having their espressos.

I think the rapidity of my strokes helped to keep the shapes simple and not too overstated.  In my first attempt, I used flat brushes which lead me to define the edges too carefully. I switched to a big mop brush in the second painting which caused me to be looser. 

The lesson of the day was to speed up my painting process and keep the details to a minimum. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I spent my Christmas Eve sketching the value study for the painting of St. Mark's Plaza in Venice that I will do today.  It's from my collection of slides I took in Europe many years ago.  The lacy quality of the buildings and the big shadow from the bell tower attracted my interest.

One more advantage of doing a value study before you paint is that it gives you a chance to think about color choices.  Since the sun is behind the buildings, I decided that the sky should be a gradation of yellow.  That choice leads me to think that the complement of yellow--violet--should be featured in the silhouette of the architecture.  That contrast will enliven both colors.

I'll keep the details in the interior shape of the cathedral to a minimum.  The abstract shapes of the piece are then emphasized and the color should further carry the day.

What a happy way to spend my Christmas day while the turkey is in the oven!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Finding Subject Matter

After going through the same stack of photos for the umpteenth time looking for something to paint, I suddenly thought, I wish I could paint some of my photos of Europe.  Only trouble is, they are on slides.  I didn't want to burn up the slide projector bulb finding and then sketching or painting the great scene.

I solved the problem by projecting my slides on the wall and then photographing the projected image with my instamatic camera.  It worked great, and now I have about fifty photos to work from this winter when I'm in Florida and the weather isn't cooperative.

I'm still a convert to the belief that a value sketch is a desired first step to creating a well designed painting.  So here is the value sketch and painting of a couple of tin mines along the coast of Cornwall, England.

Friday, December 5, 2014


With all that's been happening in my hometown these days, I just haven't felt like painting.  Sometimes our emotional state affects our ability to concentrate on our painting life.  But finally I forced myself into the studio.  I combed through my photos and found a pic I took in Mystic Seaport, Connecticut years ago.  I returned to an old theme: dockside subject matter.  I also love painting reflections in water and boats. Finding quiet in this kind of setting soothes my anxieties. 

I'm thinking that with Christmas coming, maybe I ought to try a snow scene.  A return to thinking about painting leads to actual painting.